EU-Nato relations: A country-by-country analysis
Nato emblem | Photo credit: Press Association
It's evident that the western world has experienced escalating tensions with Russia over the past year. Besides international conflicts and cyberattacks, Nato has intercepted the highest number of Russian military planes since the cold war, and Russian naval activity is reported to now exceed cold war levels. These conflicts have also coincided with an increase in military spending in the last year: a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) showed an increase by 2.6 per cent in Western Europe, 2.4 per cent in Central Europe, 5.9 per cent in Russia, and 1.7 per cent in the US (its first growth in military spending after five years of reductions).
Nato, too, is undergoing efforts to increase monetary contributions from its members, to mixed reception. This issue among others will be tackled at the upcoming May meeting between Nato leaders and US President Donald Trump, who once called Nato "obsolete" during his election campaign. Trump's wavering stance toward Europe and his complicated entanglements with Russia beg the question of where the EU-US alliance stands.
Dalia Research took a closer look at Europeans' opinion of Nato, the US, and defence spending to better understand the dynamics leading up to Trump's meeting with Nato on 25 May. Our study is derived from more than 11,000 interviews from all 28 EU countries, with an additional focus on the six largest EU countries. Our results show that regardless of ongoing political tensions with the US, Europeans have fairly high approval ratings of Nato and they feel even more strongly about keeping the US as an ally.
Opinions about Nato
Overall 25 per cent of all Europeans say they 'know a lot about Nato', 63 per cent 'know what it is but couldn't describe it', and 12 per cent don't know it at all. The French are most familiar with Nato with 38 per cent expressing they 'know a lot about it'. The British are least aware with a quarter not knowing anything about Nato.
Among Europeans who are aware of Nato, public opinion is relatively positive: just under half have a positive view of Nato, Ten per cent have a negative view and 43 per cent are neutral. Approval for Nato is highest in Poland at 71 per cent and lowest in Italy (34 per cent). Views of Nato are also fairly high in the UK and Germany with around half of respondents in each country offering favourable responses.
By a narrow margin, Europeans as a whole want to increase defence spending: 37 per cent want to spend more on defence, 34 per cent want to spend the same amount and 29 per cent want to spend less. Poland has the highest proportion of people who want to increase military spending (53 per cent) and Spain has the lowest share (14 per cent).
Perhaps what's most interesting about our findings is that despite the wide range in opinions towards military spending and Nato, Europeans in general still think the US is a valuable ally. Two thirds of all Europeans consider the US to be a useful ally for Europe in international politics and global affairs, ranging from 78 per cent in Poland to 61 per cent in France.
The results of our study show that Europeans' opinions of Nato are tied to their desire for increased defence; those that feel positively about Nato also want to boost their defence budget. Poland also stands out as the most enthusiastic supporter of Nato, US allyship, and increased budget spending, perhaps due to its higher tensions with Russia.